The Devoted Disciple

Swami Sankalpananda Saraswati

Once there lived a great guru by the name of Ramdas, who had a devoted disciple named Shivaji. This disciple had all the qualities of a bhakta. Having completely surrendered himself to the guru, Shivaji felt the power of his love and received his blessings continuously. Nothing was too great a task for Shivaji to carry out for his master. Guru Ramdas had many other disciples who also loved him dearly, but they were all quite jealous of Shivaji, and some even told terrible stories about him.

Knowing his disciples' thoughts, Ramdas decided to test them in order to show the strength of their love and devotion. According to custom, every morning the disciples went to greet their guru and touch his feet, but this morning when they approached, Guru Ramdas was crying out in pain and shouting like a madman. His foot had swelled to twice its normal size and he had it tightly bound. All the disciples gathered around anxiously to see what they could possibly do to help him.

Finally, one of them decided to bring a doctor, but when Ramdas heard about this he shouted at him that a doctor would be of no use. In order to ease the pain, someone would have to suck out all the pus and poison from his foot, but afterwards that person was sure to die. When the disciples heard this, they slowly began to leave the room. Not one of them stepped forward to relieve his guru's pain.

All this time Shivaji had been standing back quietly so the jealous disciples could have this great opportunity of serving the guru. But when he saw that no one was ready to give up his life, he quickly came forward to suck the dreaded poisons from his guru's foot. Unable to bear seeing his guru in such pain, he gently loosened the bandage around the swelling and began to suck.

The remaining disciples were wonder struck as a blissful smile appeared on Shivaji's face, and he seemed to be enjoying something pleasant and sweet. They could not understand why he was sucking the foot so avidly when very soon his life would surely end as Guru Ramdas had foretold. Shivaji continued to suck on his guru's foot until Ramdas finally said to him, 'Shivaji, stop now. How can you be so greedy?' The disciples gathered closer now, expecting to see Shivaji fall dead at any moment. But Shivaji went on sucking and sucking, until, in the dim light, it seemed as though the poisons were running down his chin.

At last Ramdas pushed Shivaji away, declaring that the swelling had indeed come down. Then he untied the bandage to reveal a half sucked mango. 'You see', he said to the other disciples, 'dedication is the sweetest path in life'.

Only those who are totally dedicated ever taste the bliss of spiritual life. Those who are partially dedicated may catch a glimpse of it if they are lucky, but the experience is never theirs. While those who are not dedicated at all never even see it.